Getting Cute with the Catholic Church

Rachel Donadio reported the Vatican's public relations blunder in the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop and went on to describe "a 2,000-year-old by octoganerians."

The Vatican recently revoked the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, to great criticism. Now, in an unprecedented letter, Pope Benedict XVI admits the Vatican made mistakes in handling the case. Rachel Donadio reported the story from Madrid but felt the need to add her own facetious turns of phrase in "PopeAdmits Online News Can Provide Infallible Aid."

The headline is a play on "papal infallibility," the concept by which thePope is infallible, only in matters of faith and morals when he speaks "ex cathedra" (from the chair). By getting cute, she promotes a misunderstanding.

Donadio also had fun with the thought of "a 2,000-year-old by octoganerians" (the Pope is in fact not a king, but is elected by the College of Cardinals).

The letter released Thursday in which Pope Benedict XVI admitted that the Vatican had made "mistakes" in handling the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop was unprecedented in its directness, its humanity and its acknowledgment of papal fallibility.

But it also contained two sentences unique in the annals of church history.

"I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on," Benedict wrote. "I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news."

In other words: "Note to the Roman Curia: try Google."

The Vatican, a 2,000-year-old monarchy built on the ruins of the Roman Empire and run by octogenarians, has officially recognized the demands of the 24-hour news cycle, not a 24-century one.

In his disarmingly human letter, Benedict acknowledged the "avalanche of protests" elicited after he revoked the excommunication of four schismatic bishops in January, including Richard Williamson, who in a television interview broadcast a few days earlier - and widely available online - had denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers.